Inspiring, organizing and, overall, leading people in the digital workplace is not the same thing as doing so in person. Displaying charisma over a message is substantially harder, monitoring their work is easier and less invasive, while coordination happens to go either way. In other words, leadership is not necessarily simpler or more difficult in the digital workplace, it’s just different. This is why, the definition of a leader or what a leader is supposed to be like tends to be quite different, as well. With that in mind, here are the five most important skills for a leader in the digital workplace.
Monitoring and Feedback
Looking over the shoulder of your employees is never a good thing for productivity. Luckily, this can be avoided in the digital world by simply installing a monitoring software in order to see what they’re doing. Even if they’re aware that you can see what app they’re currently using, their privacy is nowhere near endangered, which allows you to get the best out of both worlds. On the other hand, don’t forget to ask them how they feel if you have any questions. Even if the problem is more than transparent, you need to ask in order to show them that you care.
While it does have many advantages like flexible workspace and low overhead, the virtual workplace has some shortcomings, as well. First of all, your employees might not feel like the part of the team, no matter how long they’re under your employment. This could simply be because they’ve never met another staff member in person. This is why you need to find another way to gain their trust and loyalty. Small tokens of affections, bonuses and gifts are just several ways in which you can achieve that.
The Ability to Focus
Apart from having to oversee projects, negotiate with clients and be available to your staff 24/7, as a telecommuter yourself, you’ll also be bombarded by problems of personal nature on a daily basis. This means that a skilled digital worker needs to be resourceful in order to create an environment in which they can focus. This can be achieved either by setting some ground rules with your friends and family or by looking for a suitable alternative. For instance, if you’re operating from NSW, you might want to look for a serviced office in Sydney, so that you can emulate a traditional workspace.
Intuition is often listed as the prime trait of a skilled leader. By being physically separated from the client, the employee and even the product (especially if your business model rests on drop shipping), this trait will be incredibly hard to achieve. Instead, you need to make your decisions based on data, which means that you need to learn how to leverage analytics. This doesn’t mean that you should blindly follow numbers, but that you need to learn how to uncover positive business practice by looking at the data before you.
Another important trait, some would even call it the most important one, of a digital workplace leader is the availability. Aside from the standard collaboration tool that you use, you also need to be available on all sorts of IM and social network DM services, as well as check your email on a regular basis. If you have the IM tool of choice, make sure to make a mention of it to everyone you work with. The problem with this is that some of your employees and clients are in a different time-zone; however, this is a sacrifice that you will have to make.
Needless to say, some skills like effective communication, active listening and multitasking are still of vital importance. The only reason we omitted them from this list is due to the fact that they’re not endemic to the virtual workplace like the above-mentioned five.